Beset by a suspension, injuries and age, and surrounded by a rejuvenated younger lineup, Sounders star Clint Dempsey, 35, announced Tuesday the end of one of the greatest careers in American soccer history. The three-time U.S. Soccer male athlete of the year, tied for the most goals by an American in international play, is retiring.
Dempsey, who will be honored at the Sounders’ next home match at 1 p.m. Saturday against Sporting Kansas City, had been coming off the bench most of the season.
“After a lot of thought, my family and I have decided that this is the right time for me to step away from the game,” Dempsey said in a club release. “I’d like to thank all of the teammates, coaches and support staff that I’ve worked with throughout my career. It has always been my dream to make it as a pro. I’m grateful to have been on this ride.
“I would like to thank all of the fans who have supported me throughout my career with the New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham, Seattle Sounders and the U.S. Men’s National Team. Y’all have always made me feel at home.”
The signing in 20134 of Dempsey, from Nacogdoches, Tex., from Tottenham was a huge development in Seattle and MLS, bringing back an American from Europe with prime years remaining. He responded with 47 goals, tying him with Fredy Montero for most in club history, and 100 starts in 115 games.
He helped the Sounders win their first Supporters’ Shield in 2014 and first MLS Cup in 2016, although he sat out the title game against Toronto, having been sidelined since August with an irregular heartbeat. He bounced back in 2017 with a club-high 15 goals and a return to the MLS Cup, earning comeback player of the year honors. This season, apparently dealing with a lower back injury, he had a goal and and an assist in 14 appearances.
“When Clint arrived in Seattle in 2013, in many ways it was a defining moment for our club,” said Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer. “His signing represented a new era in Major League Soccer, allowing our country’s most accomplished player to return home and drive the game to new heights domestically.
“Five years later, there’s no doubt in my mind that Clint helped us achieve that, both on the field surrounding our club’s success over the past several seasons, and in our community. In particular, I know many were inspired by Clint’s resolve in returning to the field last season from a major health issue, and that character is something I’ll remember most about him.”
Garth Lagerway said he was the best the U.S. has produced, period.
“As far as I’m concerned, Clint is the greatest player in the history of our country,” the Sounders GM said. “His mark on both our club and USMNT is indelible. His hard-earned reputation as a trailblazer for our nation in Europe helped pave the way for generations of future Americans abroad. His service to our game deserves special recognition.”
In an MLS release, commissioner Don Garber said, “Clint Dempsey has been one of the most impactful players in the history of the sport in our country. From his early success with the New England Revolution to his achievements both as a top player in the English Premier League and for USMNT, Clint showed us that there are no limits for an American player.
“His decision to sign with the Sounders in 2013 in the prime of his career sent a message to the global soccer community that MLS was a league on the rise.”
The Sounders Sunday won their club-record seventh match in a row 1-0 over the Timbers in Portland, where they had not won since 2014. The fifth road win in a row pushed Seattle’s (11-9-5) unbeaten streak to 10 and moved it into sixth place in the Western Conference.